Monday, January 12, 2009

It's Not Elitest, It's Just the Basics

I did 2 big rides over the weekend and put in nearly 200k which is great for some base mile fitness to prepare me for the race season. The big hazard of these kinds of organized rides is that there are riders of all levels. Based on some events I experienced this weekend, some people don’t understand that riding in a pack is not as easy as it looks on TV during the Tour de France…and it’s not just the newbies who are guilty.

1) Do NOT overestimate your fitness and or skill level. You know in your heart you cannot keep up with the CAT 1 men’s racing teams, so do NOT start in the front with them. You’ll only blow up on the first hill and cause problems for the 100’s of riders behind you who CAN keep up.

2) If you hit a hole and lose your water bottle, DO NOT slam on your brakes and come to a complete stop in the middle of the peleton. Ease your way out of the pack and when you are clear of other riders, then and only then are you allowed to turn around and go get your bottle.

3) If you blow a tire, see number 2.

4) If for any reason you have the urge to slam on your brakes, DON’T. Instead, try paying attention.

5) In other words - DO NOT slam on your brakes in a Peleton. The ONLY way you can get away with this is if there are people in front of you already hitting the road. And guess what? They are probably crashing because someone slammed on their brakes (or suddenly swerved, see numbers 7 and 8).

6) Most people know to say “car back” or “car up” to warn other riders of the presence of a vehicle, but, for God’s sake, there’s no reason to scream it with panic in your voice like your being chased by an ax murderer. Riders will read your panic and hit the brakes. For more info on hitting your brakes in a pack of cyclists, please see numbers 2 – 5.

7) If you cannot keep your bike from swerving when you take a hand off the bar or when you turn your head to talk to someone, then DON’T DO IT. Keep both hands on the handle bar and keep your eyes forward. Sudden swerving in a peleton leads to bad things. Practice this skill on your own first – it’s not as easy as it sounds.

8) Along the lines of number 7, your bike should not be swerving to follow your downstroke. Keep your pedaling smooth, your bike straight and your upper body relaxed and still.

9) Pointing at the ground to warn riders behind you of holes or gravel in the road is a good thing. Please keep that in mind when your hands go numb and you’re contantly dropping them to your side to shake them out. Every time you do that, the rider behind you begins bracing for an obstacle. It’s annoying. Stop it.

Riding a bike is not as easy as it looks. Beyond fitness, bike handling skills and common sense are essential. Take some time to practice them…for the sake of the other 500 riders out there.

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